Lenni Reviews: “Orbit” by Leigh Hellman

*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

Committed troublemaker Ciaan Gennet runs afoul of the law one too many times and ends up sentenced to probation at a spaceship port facility. He blonde hair makes her a target for bullies so she hopes to keep her head down and serve her time without incident. But when a captain with obviously suspicious cargo docks his ship, Ciaan gets caught up in a multiplanet conspiracy that puts her life in great danger.

Perhaps a little slow going until Ciaan ends up on the spacecraft but it’s still interesting. Great characters, awesome worldbuilding, and a great spin on some dystopian concepts. We have a smart woman of color as our main lead and I love reading about a motley crew of space rebels. Very cool book. 4.9 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "The Thousand Year Beach" by Tobi Hirotaka - Translated by Matt Treyvaud

*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and it suggested for mature readers.

When mysterious spiders attack their small beach town, the remaining surviving AI's must battle to save what little that remains.

If I were to sum this up, I would describe this as if the minds behind Black Mirror re-wrote the ending to Wreck it Ralph.  The book has you thinking about the nature of what an AI really is and what they are forced to do at the hands of human users.

The characters may be just in-game characters, but they have all the personality and depth, I got sucked into the world right away. I had so much fun reading this and I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes original cyberpunk stories. The action starts right up and doesn't let up very often; making this book hard to put down. Beautifully written and tense, this was a great read. 4 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: “Broken Mirror” by Cody Sisco

*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated 18+

After the death of his grandfather, Victor is convinced he was murdered. But nobody believes him due to his diagnosis of mirror resonance syndrome, which causes blackouts, nightmares, hallucinations, and a lack of control over strong emotions. Determined to discover the truth, Victor no longer knows who to trust as not only his condition worsens but a dangerous conspiracy involving a possible cure and a plot to lock up any broken mirror whether they're a threat or not.

This is a great cyberpunk thriller. Set in a dystopian, 1990's, you get this futuristic feel and the stakes make it tense but there are moments that drag as the next twist is set up. I really felt for Victor and I think you'll find yourself rooting for him the entire book, as I did. The world around him is built perfectly within the narrative making the entire story engrossing and engaging. An awesome novel worth checking out. 4 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Escape Velocity" Jason M. Hough

*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

After the destruction of their ships, Captains Skyler Luiken and Gloria Tsandi with their crews are stranded within enemy compounds, scattered and separated with no escape and surrounded by the Scipio; having survived a huge attack, and now must find a way to find their comrades, defeat an armada, and get out alive.

Despite the flurry of characters, this is an interesting space opera with some high handed concepts that feel bigger than they really are. Other than my personal curiosity about the previous books in this series, this one stands alone just fine. It's enjoyable, the characters and writing kept me interested but not enough to get truly lost in it and I found myself easily distracted instead of engaged. It comes in, does its thing, then it leaves fulfilling its task. Not bad, though. 3 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Crossing in Time" by D.L. Orton and Micah McDonald

This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated for 18+

Geneticist Isabel is given a once in a lifetime chance; to go back in time and get a second chance with her lover, Diego. But this is for much more than just love as their relationship may hold the key to saving humanity from mass extinction.

Now, I know one would think that knowing me and my other reviews; a "time travel, dystopian romance" would not only have my eyes rolling out of my head but send me into Serena's Plight levels of anger. Neither of these happened. I LOVED this book.

Isabel and Diego are both whip-smart, strong brave characters and there were precious few moments in the plot where I doubted they were anything else. And while their relationship takes center stage, supporting characters like Matt are quick witted, kind, and funny. All of them have such chemistry I didn't want to leave them (and I will be getting the next books in the series).

The time travel bits can get confusing and part of me doesn't want to believe anyone could accidentally set off a nuke (but with how things are with a president who tweets unintelligible typos, it seems sadly likely) but overall, this story had even a cynic like me believing that one relationship could mean saving the world. 4.7 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Syndicates Pawns" by Davila LeBlanc

*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

The crew of the Jinxed Thirteenth is sent on a rescue mission to retrieve the only survivor of an abandoned space station. What they find is Jessie Madison in cryo-sleep; and she has been there for several millennia. Awakening to a world that's completely unknown to her, Jessie struggles to learn new languages and face the loss of her husband. Meanwhile, a crew criminals lead by Domiant, sets out to capture the ship and Jessie as valuable cargo. Captain Morwyn and his crew must beat back Domiant and his dangerous underlings in order to protect Jessie and her unborn child from being sold or worse.

This book is like a combination of Event Horizon and Firefly in that the story takes place mostly on one ship and the crews on both sides are made up of very different species with all sorts of different abilities and specialties that struggle to get along and work together. They work well together and the world building and action sequences are written very well, there are so many characters with not enough development to properly tell them apart. I found myself getting confused as to who was who very easily. Except for Jessie; who stood out really well but mostly because she is truly a fish out of water. While this book is the second in a series, it stands well enough on it's own. For muddled characterization but an exciting story, I give this a 3.5 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "The Thirteenth Man" by J.L. Doty

*I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

When Charlie Cass - the unacknowledged son of a duke - is freed from a POW camp, he returns to find a kingdom on the cusp of war. The dukes are plotting against one another and the king and now with the presumed dead Charlie back in the picture, they fear he will interfere with their plans. But Charlie refuses to go down without a fight.

I'm not usually a fan of military sci-fi but I honestly have to say this was the characters that kept me interested in this book. Charlie is a compelling, sensible character who is smart enough to surround himself with competent, loyal, and colorful people. Especially the prostitutes. They made me laugh. The techno jargon and political dancing were a little much but I just let it wash over me until the cool stuff started happening again. All that posturing and double meaning give me a headache. It's why I could never be a politician...

As this book was filled with all these thrilling space battles and has a satisfying conclusion to the main conflict, I felt the epilogue deflated everything; especially after such a climactic ending. I honestly can't think of another way to mend all those plot threads together without adding a few hundred pages to the book so I'll let the exposition dump slide. For unexpectedly entertaining me despite being out of my usual tastes, I give this a 3.7 out of 5.

For more reviews, check out Lenni's blog: Haunting Hypatia.

Lenni Reviews: Song of Song by L. J. LaBarthe

Song of Song is a science fiction romance by L. J. LaBarthe. Set in the far future where humanity has expanded beyond Earth, this book stars Dex (short for Dex742A-GR23), a genetically engineered man called a Boxie, and his AI cat, Manx, fleeing their home in search of freedom. Dex has been created to serve one purpose and if he deviates from that purpose, he will be killed. Once he and his fellow Boxies have been ordered to turn in their AI companions, Dex is too attached to his friend and decides to flee. While in outer space, Chen Lau Song is a fugitive fleeing the oppressive government on a sentient and evolving ship called Fa'a. The government wants to use Fa'a as a weapon but as the genius who created her, Song decided to run with his ship to make sure she couldn't be used as a tool or a template for other warships. Dex and Song meet when Fa'a is damaged and Song commandeers the ship on which Dex is hiding. Their mutual desire for freedom is what brings them together just as the despot seeking control of Fa'a and the entire galaxy; Cory Lewis Atticus Melvile (you can tell he's bad because he's way over named...) plots and schemes - willing to go to any lengths to capture them.

The sci-fi world built in this novel is very well done even if the characters are a bit cliche. You have the eccentric genius in Song, the man who wants out of his slotted life in Dex, and the evil businessman in Cory. It really is the setting and the overarching plot that sets this book apart; making it more a sci-fi with romantic elements than the other way around. If you're looking for the emphasis to be all on the budding relationship between Song and Dex, you may be let down. But the story as a whole is very entertaining. Manx and Fa'a are adorable characters and the rest of the cast and crew are likable characters fleshed out just enough so you care about what happens to them. Except for Cory... He's a twit.

If this story could have been fleshed out some more, it would have been even more fun. The universe created here has so much potential and I hope LaBarthe has more planned for it. I mean, come on. You CANNOT have a character named Shafaquat: Sultana of Agony and Cleverness with no back story! I can see an entire book about just her, easily.

If you like your sci-fi with a sweet little M/M romance, Song of Song will live up to your expectations. While some adult situations are present, they're not overwhelming and I had a great time reading this book.

Lenni Reviews: "Bane" by Amelia C. Gormley

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I must have said a dozen or so times in my tenure as a book reviewer here that I'm going to be writing a review for you guys for the second book in a series without having read the first one. Well, surprise! Bane is the sequel to Strain, which I have indeed read! I happened upon it in one of my free ebook newsletters so when I saw this book in my review box, I snatched it up.

Bane follows the further adventures of Rhys Cooper, a man with a strange immunity to the virus which has ravaged the planet. The virus has three strains that do three different things: infect you with a disease called Rot, turn you into a monster called a revenant, or a super-human they call Juggernauts (or Jugs for short). Scientists in the Clean Zone have caught wind of Rhys' immunity and asked him to be a test subject for a possible vaccine but his partner; Darius Murrel, and the rest of Delta Company don't trust the government. It is the same government that developed this virus, had the Jugs fight for them, then banished them from society.

While as steamy (read: smutty) as the first book, Bane focuses more on the twisted story of trying to find a cure and a safe place for uninfected people and the Jugs they fear. With the virus in the book is so virulent, transmission and risk of another outbreak is a constant concern. The tension surrounding a possible vaccine, how it will effect the balance in the word, and whether or not it will even work, was the most riveting part for me, and I look forward to a sequel if Gormley has one in the works.

As for the M/M romance aspect of it, Rhys and Darius are pretty well established as a couple. The main romantic conflict comes from characters introduced in a different book; Nico Fernandez and Zach Houtman. Nico is a Jug and Zach is one of the doctors working with Rhys on a cure. Kept apart for a decade by Nico's infection, they are thrown together again. Their possible reconciliation is the backdrop to a well built, post-apocalyptic landscape.

To sum it all up, Gormley has sharp world building skills and a red hot pen for her erotic portions of her books. If you like your M/M romance with a sci-fi bent, Bane is a welcome addition.

If you like Lenni’s reviews; she also has her own writing posted at www.atthequillsmercy.com

Lenni Reviews: "Pathfinder: Exodus Book Two" by Gun Brooke

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In the wake of utter chaos on their home planet, the Oconodians are fleeing their world on a massive ship called Pathfinder. Due to riots caused by Changers; people who have developed various sorts of powers, this ship will take them on a long journey to a new world. Chief engineer and seasoned soldier Adina Vantressa has the responsibility of keeping all two million people aboard safe by overseeing the proper functions of all the systems keeping them alive. One of those millions is Briar Lindemay; a nurse who, along with her sister Caya, have boarded the ship in search for a better life. Briar joins the expedition as a nurse but also is hiding the fact that her sister is in fact a changer and Briar has illegally boarded the ship to protect her young sister from the violence at home. Thrown together by an obvious sabotage attempt, Adina and Briar become fast friends with a chance at something more. But the same sabotage that brought them together was not the first and with Caya's ability to see visions increasing in strength, Briar is forced to decide if her budding romance is worth risking her sister's safety or Adina's life as well.

The science fiction elements to this story are spot on and very interesting. This novel starts off running and doesn't stop for very long; even when the main characters are trying to get to know each other. What is gratifying about this book is since the situation is so dire, every character has no other choice but to be strong. Male or female; every character is a professional trying to ensure the survival of millions of people during a major interplanetary evacuation and resettlement so nobody is whining here. I know readers are sometimes on the lookout for strong female characters in particular and Brooke gives us an excellent balance of capable people where gender isn't important.

As for the romance, if you're looking for some steamy trash, this isn't the place. In  my opinion, this is a science fiction novel with romantic elements and a couple of steamy scenes here and there. And I mean mature rating steamy, so don't be shocked by some woman on woman sexytimes.

Coming into this series on book 2 makes it so I cannot comment on how this book relates to the first but Pathfinder does end with the promise of more. But since the romance was so secondary in my opinion, I would love to see more about how these adrift settlers manage when they get to their destination. This is not to say that the romance is not executed well, it's just the story surrounding it was very cool. Briar and Adina are a cute couple and your root for them to come through the chaos around them. Kudos so you, Brooke! I look forward to book 3.

Lenni Reviews: Three Days in April by Edward Ashton

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Have you ever wondered what would happen if someone rewrote The Happening and made it... Well, all around better and cool? Then welcome to the technothriller Three Days in April.

In this world, there Augmented people, non-Augmented people, AI's that can run your house, and NatSec watching through every connected device in the net as well as cameras everywhere. Augmented people can connect and download information right into their heads,  have increased speed and agility, or strength. Then one morning in April, most of the people in Hagerstown keel over and die. Then the town is turned into a smoking crater. Our main protagonist is Anders, a down and out Augmented who is perfectly happy in his mundane teaching job when his friend Doug asks him to decrypt some documents he "found" suddenly Anders is involved in a massive conspiracy against all of humanity; genetically modified or not.

When I tell you this is The Happening and Ghost in the Shell, I am not kidding. While not suicides, a bunch of people all of a sudden drop dead in a painful way and everybody understandably scrambles around like crazy people. But then we THANKFULLY flee from any Shyamalan-ian mistakes for some cyberpunk, government conspiracy goodness! Having read (and LOVED) the Avery Cates series, this novel is a tense ride that won't let you go, with an ending ripe for a continuation should Ashton decide to write one. The characters are dynamic, real, and fun in this fantastical setting. I'm glad I gave this book a read and if you like cyberpunk, I think you will too.

Three Days in April is available now as an ebook and in paperback on October 13, 2015.

Lenni Reviews: "Apex" by Aer-ki Jyr

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Humans have long since gone extinct and any remaining scrap of their civilization is heavily prized and ruthlessly hunted. Even the slightest scrap could change the course of a planet's role in the galaxy. So when courier for hire Jalia happens upon a group smuggling a very secret and very valuable bit of cargo, she's even willing to abandon her crew at a space station to take the job. But the cargo isn't just a bit of scrap and now every available ship and gun in the known galaxy is after her.

First off, this is a really cool space opera. I don't usually pick these up but when I do, I am rarely impressed and Aer-Ki Jyr impressed me. The levels of detail in the technology, weaponry, and abilities of each species are carefully thought out, fully described, and very interesting. The story stalls for those descriptions sometimes but it gets right back on track. I had vivid memories of the first time I saw Titan A.E., which is good and bad.

The good: It's just awesome. Aliens, spaceships, fun new technology, and space battles with intelligent, fun characters you enjoy interacting with. The book is tense, hilarious, heartwarming, and smart. I loved reading it.

The bad: I got a serious "Humans are the best evar!11!" vibe. Before going extinct, humans had the best tech, were self-healing, psychic super beings who could just fix all the things. Our only weakness seemed to be what ever cataclysm destroyed us. Granted this is thousands of years worth of inventions, evolution, and general progress to get there, but the fact we were just so darn perfect didn't sit that well. Nitpicky I know but it rubbed me the wrong way.

But this is not to say you shouldn't read it. If you like long space operas with cool aliens and battles, you'll love this book.




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Lenni Reviews: Tides of Maritinia by Warren Hammond

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In this surprising space adventure, Jakob Bryce is sent on a covert mission to infiltrate and dismantle the power of the newly freed Maritinia; a planet on the far reaches of The Empire that rules the system. Despite the small size of this world and the limited role of their single export - kelp - to the economy, the Empire is stretched thin defending their control. If one small planet can successfully rebel, it may inspire others and it's Jakob's job to make sure that doesn't happen.

Jakob is a newbie to this job so his loyalty is truly tested as he's thrown into this odd mix of idealists and madmen and forced to maintain a cover with some really shoddy intel. For an all powerful Empire, they send this guy on his first mission not knowing a great deal; like who is the father of the woman his target is in a relationship with. In this reader's opinion, I was already losing faith in the Empire way before Jakob did. To keep Jakob in line, there is an artificial intelligence implanted in his brain named Pol, who keeps Jakob from being able to deviate from the mission. This poses a problem because Jakob's loyalties are tested, emotions are toyed with, and he has to decide if the will of the Empire is worth the cost of the people of Maritinia.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. At first I was confused by the typo filled journal entries at the beginning of each chapter but the why's and how's of that are revealed later in the book. The world building is detailed and exacting. You really feel like you're in a waterlogged boat the whole ride. As the story progresses, Jakob's character gets better and better. You will be cheering for him by the end of it. While this can easily be a standalone novel, I do hope we hear more of Maritinia from Warren Hammond. It's a cool spy adventure in space that will leave you wanting more.

(For more of Lenni's writing, click here)